BluPrint’s final tropical architecture book: Indigenous wisdom in the 21st century
We visited our Southeast Asian neighbors, countries with weather like the Philippines, to rediscover tropical architecture
January 28, 2020
Written by Judith Torres
Photographed by Edward Hendricks
We sought out designers respectfully in touch with the wisdom of their ancestors while staying abreast of innovative solutions and forging contemporary architecture in increasingly cosmopolitan and urbanized contexts. We visited our Southeast Asian neighbors, countries with weather like ours, to rediscover the defenses against sweltering heat and hammering tempests that our early forebears knew full well. There’s a reason stilts, pitched roofs, open plans, wrap-around balconies, canopies, sunscreens, large windows, and other means to shade and ventilate homes are in wide use across the region. They were learned by trial and error over hundreds and thousands of years of building construction, long before physicists came along to explain aerodynamics—why rooms are cooler when windows are diametrically opposed; why ventilation is more effective when air inlets are low, and exhaust vents, high; or why air moving from a large space to another large space flows faster when it passes through a constricted opening.
Vernacular architecture is sustainable because its evolution is indigenous—profoundly influenced by the locale’s climate, culture, and environment; and refined over generations by native builders using available materials and local technology. But because vernacular architecture is considered primitive (produced by skilled labor rather than professional architects), much of its wisdom has been shunted aside and forgotten in the haste to copy new and modern styles from countries whose culture and climate are dissimilar from ours.
All the projects in this volume have integrated vernacular cooling techniques alongside modern air conditioning and other conveniences. Also, most of them have succeeded in providing a connection between people and nature and a sense of home and belonging. Because we share anthropological roots with Indonesia, Malaysia, and Singapore, the designs are relatable.
This book, the third of our series, would not have been possible without the generosity of good folks in Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Manila, Tagaytay, and Camiguin.
To the homeowners of the projects featured in this volume: Thank you for letting us visit and for sharing the stories and aspirations that inspired the design of your homes. Thank you for allowing us to climb and sit and stare, to peek and poke at private spaces and curious corners, to knock on walls and trace textures with our fingers and feet. Thank you for inviting us to sit at your hearth.
To the architects, thank you for your candor and sincerity. You inspire us.
To our readers and followers, thank you for enabling BluPrint to make Tropical Architecture for the 21st Century a series.